President Rodrigo Duterte is banned from seeking reelection in the 2022 national elections based on the final official copy of the proposed federal constitution released by the consultative committee (Con-Com) Tuesday.
The final copy shows that the 22-member panel acceded to Duterte’s request to eliminate his chance of running for a reelection under a new constitution.
“The incumbent President is prohibited from running as President in the 2022 elections under the Constitution,” reads Section 2, Article XXII (Transitory Provisions) under the federal constitution.
“The term of the President and the Vice President, which shall end on June 30, 2022, shall not be extended,” reads Section 1 of Article XXII.
Section 3 of the same article mandates that the incumbent President “shall call for an election for the Transition President and Vice President in tandem” within six months from the ratification of the federal constitution.
“The Transition President and Vice President shall preside over the orderly transition to the federal system of government. He shall exercise all the powers of the President under this Constitution until June 30, 2022,” the draft continues.
Former chief justice Reynato Puno, who heads of the Con-Com proposing amendments to the 1987 Constitution, had earlier told the media about the prohibition on term extension.
Duterte had approved the Con-Com’s work for endorsement to Congress almost in full, except for an instruction to the body he created to craft a provision that would enable him to step down before the transition from a unitary to a federal system of government.
“’It’s to remove all suspicions and I am tired. Ready to give it to somebody else,’” Duterte’s spokesman, Harry Roque, quoted him as saying.
In response, the Con-Com also tweaked its draft to provide for the election of a transition president and vice president―to be voted in tandem―within six months from the ratification of the proposed new constitution.
The earlier version of the draft vested the chairmanship of what has been called a “very powerful” Federal Transition Commission to Duterte, but this power would now go to the transition president.
“The Transition President and Vice President shall be ineligible to run for any public office in the May 2022 elections,” the Con-Com proposal states.
It retained an earlier section that disallowed the term extension of the president and the vice president.
Meanwhile, Con-Com spokesman Ding Generoso explained that if Vice President Leni Robredo wants to run for President, she can do so.
“The VP may run if she wishes to but not the incumbent President [Duterte],” Generoso said in a text message to reporters.
“Once a transition president and vice president are elected, Generoso noted that by operation of Sections 3 and 4 (of the Transitory Provisions), the incumbent president shall turn over the reins of government to the newly elected transition president.
In Congress, administration allies pressed for a massive information campaign on the proposed shift to a federal system after an opinion poll showed a majority of Filipinos oppose it.
Representatives Ben Evardone of Eastern Samar and Luis Raymund Villafuerte stressed the need to educate the public about the advantages and benefits of a federal system in pursuing the Duterte administration’s goal of high and inclusive growth.
“It is really a big challenge for advocates of federalism and Charter change to convince the people on the need for these changes to ensure countryside development,” said Evardone, chairman of the House committee on banks and financial intermediaries.
Villafuerte, a vice chairman of the House committee on local government and a former governor, said local executives can kick off the information drive.
“Federalism is the best for the country as the government is already familiar with this setup and can easily identify which areas require improvements,” Villafuerte said.
“The information campaign on federalism should be intensified further so that the government would have enough time to educate the people about how this progressive form of government would be most beneficial for them, in terms of spreading the country’s economic gains to the countryside and raising rural incomes,” he added.
But Party-list Rep. Gary Alejano said the problem with an information drive was that it would try to drum up support without examining the merits of the proposal.
In the past, he said, lecturers could not answer difficult questions, and local officials were made to sign documents in support of the shift, even if they still did not understand the issue, Alejano said.
Akbayan party-list Rep. Tom Villarin voiced concern over the pronouncement of Economic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia that it would take years before most of the country’s regions can adopt federalism, and that the proposed shift would disrupt economic growth (see separate story).
“When Duterte’s economic managers say otherwise about the federalism push, it shows how the right hand does not agree with what the left hand is doing,” Villarin, a member of the opposition, said.
Alejano also noted that the rejection of most Filipinos on charter change and federalism came even after the massive information campaign on the ground and recruitment to federalism organizations.
Senator Risa Hontiveros on Tuesday called on the Duterte administration not to railroad the country’s shift to federalism, stressing that there are a lot of important questions and issues that need to be deliberated and addressed.
“It’s bad enough that the Duterte government is planning to employ undemocratic processes such as a Senate-less constituent assembly to change our Constitution; now, the citizens must also contend with the bad economics of President Duterte’s federalism,” Hontiveros said.
She said the only federal set-up worth supporting is one in which accountabilities are clear and decentralized and government institutions and economic development are made more accessible and brought closer to citizens.
“Unfortunately, this is not the President’s federalism,” she said.
Another opposition senator, Leila de Lima, questioned why the term “human rights” was nowhere to be found in the draft federal constitution prepared by the Con-Com.
“I have a question for the Consultative Committee. How come the phrase ‘human rights’ is no longer found in the Article on Declaration of Principles and State Policies?” she said.
“Was the deletion of “human rights” deliberate? If so, why?” she added.
Also on Tuesday, a coalition of various organizations aired their opposition to Charter change.
Jose Morales of Tindig said the groups belonging to the United People’s Sona would hold a protest on Commonwealth Avenue before President Rodrigo Duterte delivers his third State of the Nation Address on July 23. With Rio N. Araja